Lumpy (Sometimes)

Ooooh! I’m so frustrated with this energy shake mix! It said “no blender needed, mixes instantly,” blah blah blah, and I tried to mix it with a spoon while the blender was in the dishwasher and it’s a huge mess of lumps, blargh.

It’s delicious stuff and makes great shakes… in the blender. Use a blender. Oy!

Update: I rescind my previous statement. If you shake it in a shaker glass with a top, it works great! I am going to put this down to my inexperience with shakie drinks… Ha!

In Defense of Food

God, I like food.

I like thinking about it. I like talking about it. And to be fair, I don’t exclusively mean the preparation and cooking of food, though that is a totally neat thing and often very exciting. I’d like to make it even more exciting. But what I really mean, right now, over all, is the concept of food.

The meanings I had for food growing up were so different from the meanings I have now. I don’t know if anyone ever taught me where my spaghetti came from, or maybe I just didn’t let that information in. Maybe it wasn’t interesting then. I had a (very) brief vegetarian phase in grade school, but I still ate the lamb my mother made for her dinner party—I just complained about it. I don’t remember that lasting very long, but at least then I seemed to realize where the food had come from.

These days I am fascinated with the dichotomy between what we eat and how it grew. Often the thing we’re eating bears no reasonable resemblance to the actual organism it once was. It was only in the last few years that I realized how anti-conscious my meat-eating had become, food is something you buy from a store, an object or faceless element, like pumping fuel into a gas tank. What is this funny pile of molecules called “chicken”, completely separate from an animal I’ve never met of the same name? But meat isn’t faceless (or shouldn’t be) and I am coming to believe that even a humble green bean or asparagus deserves more than the lot we offer them—as Reel Big Fish has suggested, even lettuce is worthy of a little consideration. If I’m going to respect a cow or a pig for its nutritional content and creatureness, I can likewise respect a handful of sprouts, or a cucumber, or a carrot. And I think I want to.

So finding Michael Pollan came at a really good time for me, a few months ago. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, having seen it mentioned in one of Violet’s articles, as well as having been recommended it by friends in passing. The message I got from this book was all about respecting food, and respecting myself, and being really conscious of the complex systems in the universe that led to me being fed at all—and conscious, too, of the additional complexity added by commerce and industry. And how complexity itself can sometimes be awe-inspiring… or scary. (Or both!)

I looked for Michael Pollan’s blog, feeling that he must have one. But he didn’t. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.) So I was sad. I wasn’t sure if his other books were anything like this one, so I let it go. But a few days ago, Missy pointed me to Science Friday—and an interview with Michael Pollan! It is this interview I point you to now, because it’s a great interview, and it’s about his recently released In Defense of Food. This vibes perfectly with the way I’ve been feeling lately and I am really excited to read it. In any case, you can listen to the whole interview right on the Science Friday website. (Please do!) It’s super awesome.

Science Friday: Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (Friday, January 4th, 2008)

I am really interested in your thoughts on this whole issue, if you care to comment on it. Food is awfully exciting lately!

Sick World

“Wal-Mart: Save money. Live better.” This sickens me. Not only in light of all the reading I’ve been doing lately, but as an overarching theme; I am sickened by Wal-Mart. And lots of other things.

If the market follows our lead, friends and neighbors, we are doing a fuck-awful job.

So… how do we fix it?

Wild Red Sockeye

I’ve been doing salmon research. I’ve set my sights on wild red Alaskan Sockeye, and although I already keep my freezer stocked with Copper River filets from Costco, I’d like to keep canned salmon on hand, too. I have lots of ideas—salads, sandwiches, wraps. Hell, I might even eat it out of the can. This stuff is great.

So I embarked on a quest to find the best salmon, and the best prices available. At first I thought it was an obvious situation—the high quality salmon was super expensive, and the best deals seemed to be of negligible quality, or at higher risk of unreliability. (For instance, I’d never heard of “” before, and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel sending them money.) But the more numbers I worked out, the more I discovered that even the high quality, highly priced salmon did pretty well in bulk. Here’s what I came up with:, Bumble Bee Brand, 14.75 oz cans
$0.3498 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.), Bumble Bee Brand, 7.5 oz cans
$0.4848 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.)

Vital Choice Brand (highest quality, say several sources), 7.5 oz cans
$0.4944 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Expensive but the more I buy, the less expensive it is.), Raincoast Brand, 5.65 oz cans
$0.6888 per ounce, including shipping to Austin (Amazon Prime)
(Amazon is convenient, trusted, but expensive.)

Vital Choice Brand, 3.75 oz cans
$0.7666 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Quite a bit more expensive than buying larger cans.)

Now, I’m pretty thoroughly certain that Vital Choice is the best quality, after the reading I’ve done. I’m fairly sure that Bumble Bee has reasonable quality salmon, and is a responsible company; I know almost nothing about Raincoast, though what I have found seems to suggest that they’re okay. I already know that Amazon is most convenient for me (and I bought a Prime account, a long time ago, which proves it). I expect good service from Vital Choice, no issue there. I’m pretty paranoid about, having not heard of them, so I’m not sure I can bring myself to give them a try.

The only reason to buy canned salmon on the internet is to buy in bulk, unless grocery store prices are dramatically higher (I’m betting they’re not). And if I’m buying in bulk, I can get good lower prices per can while I’m at it. So the logical choice seems to be to purchase 48 cans from Vital Choice, since they are the best amalgam of trusted and reasonably priced (at least in bulk). Of course, Vital Choice is quite expensive in smaller quantities, even at 48 cans—as you can see from the last item—but who cares, if I’m buying cases anyway? And I don’t mind buying larger cans, really, either.

Amazon would get my shipment to me the fastest, but I’m still not completely sure about Raincoast… and the Amazon option is the second most expensive on the list.

I didn’t expect to settle on Vital Choice, but it does seem obvious. How bizarre! And I don’t mind buying two cases that will likely last me a good six months. Forty-eight cans for $178 over half a year… sounds like a really good situation to me.

Of course, I may go to the store next week and find out that the prices are much better off the shelf, and if that happens the only reason to buy off the ‘net would be to save myself having to lug all the cans home. Not entirely unreasonable, but maybe I’ll take a look before I go buying anything. Still, it’s interesting! And I got to exercise my questionable math skills. ;}

Update: I picked up three cans of Raincoast salmon from Wheatsville, and their off-the-shelf price is fifty cents higher than Amazon’s—and Wheatsville’s prices are quite low, in the scheme of things. It’s possible that, if unable to spend almost two hundred bucks to buy in bulk, picking up five cans from Amazon at a better price makes sense. Something to take into consideration! Of course, then I’m supporting a great company with lots of money—instead of a small community co-op. Pros and cons all over the place!

Greek Yogurt

Last week I discovered Fage Greek yogurt. Fah’-yeh. I’d never heard of Greek yogurt before.

The reason I looked for it in the first place was this entry in Kalyn’s Kitchen; she is not kidding. Wow.

I haven’t tried to cook with it yet, but it’s super delicious; the zero-fat version is unbelievable, and I’m embarrassed to admit that the full-fat version is maybe a little much for me. It’s… obscenely creamy. It’s wonderful, but I don’t think I can eat more than a few spoonfuls of it; it’s like eating butter. (Em and I did eat butter out of the dish when we were little, but that was then and this is now. Unless she still eats butter. I’ll have to ask.)

My favorite part of pouring agave over plain yogurt—instead of mixing it in—is that the whole dessert doesn’t taste sweet across the board, the same sweet everywhere. If you don’t mix it together, you can taste the whole spectrum from the rich, tangy-sour taste of the plain yogurt to the sweet and syrupy taste of the agave, and all of the little changes in between. I never thought of liking tastes that way before, but I really love it now.

I’m sure my dramatically decreased sugar intake has something to do with how scrumptiously I adore this recipe, but I think that’s okay with me. I can’t imagine this not being delicious, even to someone who does consume more sugar. Someone will have to let me know. ;}

Ah ha! (Of Herbs, Acupuncture, and Awesomeness)

It’s actually just a little bit hard to write (or think) coherently when my sinuses are squirming to escape my head. Don’t I have a tasklist around here somewhere…?

Today I met again with Dave Jones of Austin Healing Herbs & Acupuncture at the AH!HA Clinic, a nom I desperately adore. We talked last week about my allergies and arthritis, having received a tip from Ragen that Dave was all that and could probably help me out. Ragen knows the awesomest people.

This week we meant to start acupuncture treatment, but a sinus infection stepped in early this morning so we decided to treat that first. I left Dave’s office with three paper bags full of fantastic-looking dried plants that smelled… like herbs! (Obviously.)

So, let me give you some background: Herbs excite me. The idea of treating myself with plant concoctions instead of chemicals with confusing, complicated origins gives me a thrill, and it’s probably just the thrill of experimenting on myself. But even so, when at my request Dave went down through the list of things he’d put into those little paper bags, and explained the effect each of them typically had, it was suddenly the best day I’d had in a week! (Maybe two weeks! Maybe more!) Because although I’m not learning in-depth about the application of traditional Chinese medicine, I am getting to brush shoulders with it. And for this reason, I have glee!

On my way home, I managed to squeeze enough energy out of my tired, illness-vexed body to pick up an herb pot from White Crane, plus a strainer and a juice container from Zinger on Anderson. The juice container turned out to be a mixed purchase—I’m not sure how useful it will be in this case, but oh well, we have another pitcher. That’s fine. The strainer—well, let’s just say that spaghetti dinners will be a hell of a lot easier now…

The herb pot is nuts, and by that I mean awesome. It’s very odd looking (being that I’ve never actually seen anything like it) but very neat to use. If I weren’t sick as a dog, I’d be showering you with pretty pictures of my new herbs and herbal accoutrements, but you’ll have to wait for me to feel better. My three bags of herbs are set to last me about five days, counting the batch I just made for the next 24 hours, so talk to me Monday. ;}

My apartment smells—Vixen concurred—a bit like a barn, minus the horse poo. Dry and boiled through, the herbs smell just like rolling around in a hayloft, and although the resulting tea is quite bitter and not what you would call tasty, the entire experience does give me strange deja va for riding days gone by. The last time I was on a horse… oh, six or seven years ago? But the smell of hay, it sticks with you, and you don’t stop loving it for lack of proximity. Of course, I have plenty of other reasons to love this experiment, but no harm enumerating the ones at hand. My head feels like crap, but I am having a ball!

I may or may not continue to update as the week goes on; I seem to recall that I left my tasklist on my desk, and I have some work to do…


I bought portobello mushrooms—medium ones and large ones! A few hours ago, I flushed the apartment full of German opera, took the medium ones out, washed ‘em, de-stemmed ‘em, stuck ‘em upside-down in a casserole dish, and started cutting vegetables. I cut a big ripe tomato and a red pepper and two little jalapenos, and I mixed them all chopped up in a bowl! Then I put the chopped things into the portobello caps! And I had this cheese called “Da Vinci”—I think it was cheddar with Italian seasoning, sort of mellow and subtle, but I accidently threw the label away, oops! I put pieces of that on top of each full cap and stuck the casserole dish in the oven. And when I took them out, the cheese was all melted all over and they were delicious!

I was already thinking, with it almost being December, making yummy food, that listening to Hänsel und Gretel felt good, felt like holidays. I didn’t even realize that H&G was associated with Christmas until I looked up the Wikipedia entry to link in. Of course, I don’t know all the words when it’s in German. Er.

Today’s not turning out too bad at all. I think I’ll have another mushroom.

Chicken Bliss

My fridge is full of food—Robert inspired me. He came by for our yoga appointment Monday, but we got talking about food, and some of my food needs were just more important than my yoga needs at that particular moment!

I had a frozen fryer chicken in my fridge, and he patiently explained how I could cook it—even in my tiny casserole dish, with limited accoutrements. I have to tell you, that chicken turned out to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. On Robert’s recommendation, I stuffed it with halved lemons and fresh basil, and rubbed the outside with olive oil and cumin and sea salt, and beautiful black pepper, with dabs of butter. And I cut red potatoes and yellow onions to tuck around the edges, and put it in the oven at 350 for an hour or so, until the meat temperature hit 180. I ended up having to put it back in for a bit—it wasn’t quite as cooked as I wanted it to be—but when it was done, the skin was crispy and spicy and the kitchen smelled incredible. And then we ate.

And then I discovered the wishbone, so Marty and I made wishes and broke it. (I won, but my wish is equally applicable to both of us… so really, we both won.)

Throughout the rest of my discussion with Robert Monday afternoon, I kept a list—his suggestions about how to organize the kitchen and what staples to keep around were thoroughly excellent, so I carted my list with me to Wheatsville later that evening. And like I said: My fridge is full of food. Wow. Yum.

I can’t wait to have a new kitchen… but for now, I’m quite enjoying my current one. ;}

Good Friends (and Lab Rats)

Tim Ferriss made a super interesting post last week about revealing flaws of character by purposefully unleashing environmental and situational adversity on new acquaintances. It’s really thought-provoking, and went a little something like this:

3. Take them to a restaurant with good food but bad service. (Testing: how diplomatically they contend with and resolve incompetence, which is the default mode of the universe)

4. Invite them to an event or function and then profusely apologize when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet. Offer to repay them later or treat them the next time out. (Testing: how they relate to money issues. Wonderful people sometimes turn into irrational monsters as soon as even a few dollars are involved. It drives me crazy to keep a running ledger of who owes whom for a few dollars here and there, especially in social settings. Repaying the favor is mandatory, but dwelling on differences of pennies is tiring.)


Apparently a lot of people were sort of dismayed and alarmed, but as I read through his ideas, they didn’t look so shocking. And short of experimentation (of which I am a certain proponent), there’s something else I realized. As far as I can recall, the people I choose to spend my time with have already passed “tests”, just like those. They’re the people who chill in the face of uncertainty or loss of control. (Although if we’re going to talk about control, well… that’s an issue of mine.) They’re the ones who don’t get flustered when time or money or expectations get a little bent out of shape. I don’t think I ever thought about it that way, but as far as I can tell, it’s true. I wouldn’t expect any undue reactions to any of these things, from any of the people whose company I enjoy, whom I trust. Sure, I guess I could be wrong—but just think what an excellent gauge of character some of those “experiments” are. Tim’s got a point. (Especially about incompetence being the default mode of the universe. Oops!)

As regards experimenting on people you don’t know well, well, who knows! I don’t think it’s a particularly horrible thing to do to a person. It could perhaps become misguided! I don’t know that I will engage in it, but it doesn’t seem like a terribly bad idea. Maybe we’d all get a little wiser with the purposeful application of calamity.

I probably would, anyway.

I guess you’ll have to wonder the next time something wreaks havoc on our schedule. ;}

Update: He has a follow-up at the end of this post—apparently quite a few people were annoyed. Interesting!

Mmmm… Airport Food.

The man three seats down is watching Boogie Nights on his laptop—without headphones. I’m pretty amused. Someone else, across from me and a few seats the other way, is devouring a fast food dinner. McDonald’s, with various dipping sauces. Pittsburgh’s wifi is free, and I like that. My mother bought me chicken noodle soup before I went through security. Who knows how long it had been sitting in that warmer before it came to me; I ate a few bites, slowly, and let Dad have the rest.

I have four snack bars in my briefcase—funny Kashi TLC things, cereal bars I guess, crunchy and pretty good. They don’t taste like sugar, or additives. That’s kind of awesome. Maybe I’ll have another when I get on the plane.

I’m sleepy, I’d guess, because of all the refined stuff I ate at the Italian restaurant in Girard. It was a cute restaurant, but it served restaurant food (of course) and although the shrimp and mussels were delicious, they came with your usual run-of-the-mill bread and pasta. (That’s like a joke! Run-of-the-mill! I kill me!) The further something is from the ground it grew in, the more havoc it seems to wreak on the joints in my hands. Ow. Refined wheat and sugar seem to be the worst culprits, but it’s more complicated than that. I haven’t quite figured it out, but I will.

Vixen told me this weekend about Casa de Luz, which apparently specializes in macrobiotic cuisine—all real, whole organics. And I think Christopher Barzak said something about wishing for higher quality cuisine in Youngstown. God, if Youngstown had someplace like that, I would have eaten there all weekend. I know these places must exist somewhere in or around the Mahoning Valley, short of Cleveland or Pittsburgh. I would love to hear about them. And if they don’t, it’s certainly time to bring them in, don’t you think?

It’s time for my flight to board. See ya’ll in Houston! (Well, for an hour, anyway.) ;}

A Little Perspective

Food Frustration

Note to Self: Cut sunflower sprouts before eating. It was misguided to think I could eat them like a salad. Too springy. In a bowl with salad dressing, eating one end results in the other end hitting me in the face. Eating many sprouts on a fork results in many other ends hitting me in the face. Dressing everywhere. Suggested nom: “Salad of Retribution.” Incredibly frustrating to eat!

Badass Wristwarmers

Badass Wristies

Guess what I got in the mail!

Kiki made me these awesome, marvelous wristwarmers and sent them to me. They are so comfy and warm and gorgeous! I have arthritis in my wrists and fingers, so it’s a pain in the—er, hands!—trying to get work done if the AC is on (which, in Texas, and living with Marty, is often!). But these cover almost all the parts that hurt in cold air, and it’s really easy to type in them. And they happen to be completely badass!!

The entire Flickr set is here; make sure you’re logged in if you’re friended—not all of them are public. I am so excited!! These make me want to commission another pair, in the name of matching more outfits—glee!

Daddy Updates

I talked to Dad late last night. The nurse told him they were taking the phone away when we were done—apparently he’s been getting a lot of calls. ;}

As of last night, he was still in intensive care. He seemed to expect to be going home soon, maybe by today; he sounded pretty healthy and comfortable, except for the awkwardly placed alarm button he kept accidently hitting with his elbow. I expressed a lot of concern about missing things like chest pains, and we decided to meet in the middle, because in a horrible way he’s right: to spend all your time being hyper-focused on your health is not to be spending your time living. But I can live with meeting in the middle. After all, I like my Daddy quite a bit.

He still has his phone with him and you can’t convince me he hasn’t been using it. His friends are insisting he rest instead of looking at his email, but he explained to me the following: There is no way his little internet-enabled cell phone is less relaxing than an intensive care bed where every time you nod off to sleep and move your arm two inches, a machine starts shrieking…

I mean, nurse alert buttons are great and all. I am totally for nurse alert buttons.

Further news from later phone call: Dad talked to the cardiologist, who says though there’s no guarantee, he may be released tomorrow afternoon. Awesomeness.

For the Soul

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer: I adore the Colbert Report. I pretty much adore everything Stephen Colbert does, and on top of that, I eat his ice cream. (Read: I’m a fan.) But today I have some things to say about a segment he ran that touched a few nerves. That said, it’s only comedy, and I’m not offended by it. But I still wanted to say my piece. :}

Last night the Colbert Report ran a segment on an exotic dance studio in New Jersey. The focus was pole dancing. When the segment started, I got all excited. More neat pole dancing stuff! You see, I get all my pole dancing information from a net friend on the west coast. She started Seattle’s first ever pole dancing school, and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about it over the last few years—so my excitement was utterly justifiable!

As the segment played, I started to get a sour feeling in my stomach. Oh, I expected the clip to be laughy—we’re talking about Comedy Central, after all. But I don’t think I expected the angle to be so… dissatisfying. My exposure to my friend’s school is strictly text-based, and I’ve never taken a class, or even visited the school. But it’s funny how plain text can make such an impression.

Here’s the segment on Comedy Central’s site, if you want to take a look.

After watching the whole thing, I felt as if the Colbert Report had really managed to misrepresent pole dancing instruction, and the very quality of the concept. Hell, I don’t care that they did it. It’s fake news. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to set the record straight, and give you a chance to see what’s really going on. I don’t know anything about Johnna Mink or her Jersey workshops—they may have been misrepresented too, for all I know. But I do know about this other thing, whether anything else comes up to its standards or not. And it’s really worth saying something about.

It’s called Pole for the Soul.

I haven’t known Krisha well or long, in the scheme of things, but she’s said a great deal about her business, over time, and why she started it. What I’ve learned from her particular perspective on pole dancing instruction has really been nothing short of inspiring. For Krisha, it seems there is breadth and depth to the way she makes her living. It’s something that feels missing from the workshops Colbert covered in Jersey. And I think it’s something that’s missing in a lot of people’s lives, all over, everywhere.

It doesn’t seem to me that what Krisha teaches is about putting on a show, or your partner getting a private treat, or even being able to nudge yourself into that shallow stripper stereotype that so many people seem to like so much… for so many of the wrong reasons. It’s not so much about getting to finally be the sex object. It doesn’t even have to be about sex.

It seems to me that Pole for the Soul might be about something really different. The impression I’ve gotten… is that it’s about you.

It’s about becoming powerful. It’s about building yourself into the person you want to be; it’s about shedding those old stereotypes and preconceptions. It’s about taking the layers and layers of buffering we have wrapped around us—what we constructed to pad and protect ourselves from the world that is often bad and scary—and peeling them off. I’m not making a stripping pun (amused as you may be); we all have those layers. We can be strong without them. Finding out who we really are underneath is an incredible thing. We are so often so different, when that happens.

You know what a warrior I am on issues like this. This is my bag.

And so even though it was disguised as a joke in the clip, the woman who said thoughtfully, “I would say my husband enjoys it… probably more than I do”—That makes me sad. And don’t even start me on the guy who likes to pretend he’s not a pig. I don’t think Pole for the Soul allows spectators at all; the only people present are the teacher and the students, which I think is awesome, and enforces the idea that it’s not about someone else. I have to remember, too, that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report really don’t have to work too hard for the shocking quotes they get. People give them willingly. Those people are out there, and they don’t seem to have thought about the wonderful things they can do for themselves.

This is why Pole for the Soul’s take is so refreshing, and revitalizing. It’s revitalizing to read—I can’t even imagine what it’s like to take one of her classes. And man, does she get good reviews.

The Colbert clip had some pretty weak comments about personal power—but now you know. It’s true. In fact, it’s way better than you thought. Self-discovery? Creative expression? Confidence and strength and personal power and awesomeness? It’s definitely out there. You just have to look in the right places. But this is the only teacher I’m willing to vouch for. ;}